Is Poor Canine Driving A Strict Liability Tort?

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A man in Loxley, Alabama was run over by his own dog after the canine released the throttle while the owner was in front of the all-terrain vehicle. The case raises an interesting (if tongue-in-cheek) question of liability under Alabama’s hybrid dog liability statute.

The owner parked the ATV and tied his dog’s leash around the handlebars. According to WKRG, the dog tried to run and released the throttle. The man was airlifted to a hospital.

So here is the question: is a poorly driving dog a valid basis for liability?

Alabama’s Section 3-6-1, does not limit liability to dog bites but any injury by a dog. Putting aside that this is his dog, the question is whether such an accident would fit the law’s provision.

The common law imposes strict liability for dogs if the owner knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious propensity. Sometimes called the “one-free bite rule,” past evidence of vicious propensity like a bite can be enough to trigger strict liability. Other states are moving to a general strict liability rule.

Alabama has a hybrid law. First, in public areas, the law applies a negligence standard. Second, it applies a strict liability approach to the “costs” of any injury caused by a dog. That however covers medical expenses and lost wages. Third, the owner is protected from punitive or statutory damages absent knowledge of the vicious propensity, as under the common law “one free bite rule.”

So it would seem if someone is injured by a poor driving canine, they can collect for costs since the law extends beyond bites and applies strict liability for costs.

There is a question if negligence would apply for a public area like a sidewalk. Location is key since it is a defense against strict liability if “the person so bitten or injured” was not “upon property owned or controlled by the owner of such dog.” Of course, negligence could still be shown from tying a leash to throttle or near the throttle.

Otherwise such a vehicular accident could covered but not for punitive damages unless this dog has previously driven recklessly.

40 thoughts on “Is Poor Canine Driving A Strict Liability Tort?”

  1. Karen,

    I replied here last night but something happen to it. Just in case I’ll make it 2 short pieces.

    1st:

    In the USA, the govt gives research grants to colleges, NGOs, others.

    Certain people that know this follow up on public released docs & white papers, etc.

    Moving fast ahead, maybe the cartoon Futurama is more the just a cartoon, but also a visual tool to get us all use to normalizing cross species. You know, like Mark Zuckerburg. LOL;) Is that guy weird or what?

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=futurama+full+episodes

  2. Can a dog do much worse at the wheel than a driver under the influence of GPS when GPS instructs a turn onto the exit of a freeway, causing a head-on collision? How accurate are those GPS systems anyway?

  3. Couldn’t the owner just go for a product liability claim of design defect for unreasonable unsafe design???

    Claim that if a dog tied to the ATV handle bars could possible release the throttle, then so too could another adult or child, meaning the design was unsafe.

  4. The real question is did the dog have a valid license and was it under the influence? I hope the dog has retained counsel and files a claim against the owner for intentional infliction of pain and for damages it probably will be afraid to drive anymore!!

    1. Donna Sturman – I had not considered before, however a licensed dog is not licensed to drive. Still, it appeared from the photo that they were off-road and would not need a license to operate a motor vehicle. PETA could supply an attorney for the dog if the dog cannot afford an attorney. They might be able to handle a civil case against the manufacture for product liability and emotional distress.

    1. Funny Yes Darren, but have you been watching what these billionaire/govt nut jobs have been mixing our DNA with.

      Hell, 10, 20 years from now we might look over in the lane next to us on the road & see a part human/Wildebeest. LOL;)

      Right now maybe Turley could add an on going daily thread to post what we see the zombie whacko’s doing in society as time goes by so there’ll be a collection of sort of some of the crazier crap that’s been going on.

      Back on the dog’s legal defence to the jury, Blame the Cat!

      Yes, maybe no one there saw the cat but it doesn’t mean that cat wasn’t there, that’s just the way cats work it. 😉

      BTW: Your writings have been great for months now. I been at times posting as much.

      One that I wanted to post on was when you were in Ireland. I wanted to ask if you had heard of the Islamic Nut Jobs going around Ireland & destroying Catholic statues & church properties.

      (Send them all back to the sand box.)

      1. I didn’t have the opportunity to see any of the damage to the headstones. I was only in Northern Ireland for a short while, spending most of the time in the Republic. There is much respect for the cemeteries in Ireland so I can’t imagine the outrage that would be generated if vandalism occurred there.

        1. One I saw was they had broken the head of a statue of the Virgin Mary. A very old statue.

          They showed others, but that one stuck with me.

          1. I don’t get how some people believe it is so brave and cunning to attack a cemetery with vandalism.

            Back in the mid 80’s when I was a cadet with the Sheriff’s Office one of the towns we served suffered its cemetery being vandalized by kids knocking over headstones. It happened so frequently for a time we were sent out at night with portable radios and flashlights to stake out the cemetery and try to catch them in the act. They didn’t try, it seemed, when we were out there but one did get caught later and I suppose the felony charge had a halo-effect on others who thought otherwise it was something cool to do.

            About four years later some other miscreants got coked up one night and decided to dig up a date one night, literally. They went to a private cemetery and exhumed a 70 year old corpse.

            Wanting to show off their new date, they brought “her” over to a friend’s apartment where they took her inside and danced around his living room while holding the corpse in his clutch. The friend was stunned and immediately drove down to the PD to report it since he didn’t have a telephone. Coincidentally, I was patrolling the alley where the friend drove away. I saw a pick-up truck with the tailgate and the camper open where he drove off from. My gut feeling told me to look in the back of the truck but I dismissed my instincts. Turned out the grave robbers tried to leave with the corpse, saw me and ran off. Then I heard the city’s dispatch call out to have a sergeant contact the R/P at the PD regarding an “exhumed corpse”. I just knew it was the pick-up and drove back. Sure enough, there was the corpse.

            Well as you can imagine there was a big stink about the incident around town and the two cokeheads were arrested. It was a slam dunk case. They pled guilty and during the sentencing hearing the judge tore them a new one. It didn’t help the defendants I’m sure that the private cemetery was of the family of a prominent attorney in the county. They got five years, the maximum sentence. And for artistic license the judge doubled their sentence to ten years on an aggravator, ruling that “the victim was physically helpless.”

            The appeals court later threw out the aggravator, ruling that a corpse was not a “helpless person”. I’m sure the judge knew he would lose the aggravator at the appellate level, but he did it anyway just to screw with their minds. It was lovely.

            Needless to say it was the last time anyone vandalized a graveyard in the area.

            1. Darren….what a story! That could be a weekend post. The sickening acts people are capable of just astounds me.
              Good patrol work on your part!

              You should meet our local sheriff. He is straight out of central casting.. He’s 75, has a law degree, and was the head ranger over all of the Texas Rangers for years. “One riot–one Ranger” …..the code of old Texas.

        2. Darren, one other thing I recall when you were over there, there was an Irish gal call into Jones’ show & she was saying she felt Ireland was currently over ran by Islam & in 10-20 years the Ireland we all know will be gone.

          1. Perhaps the perception of this lies in the Dublin area. When I travelled there I spent my time mostly in the Northwest counties. I do not like large cities and avoid them as much as possible when I travel. My experience in Europe leads me to believe most of this demographic prefers large cities. I found some stats you might find interesting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_the_Republic_of_Ireland

            What I believe at least to be more rewarding in interacting with people of other lands is to travel to the small town or rural areas and it is there one can experience the true culture of people. Unfortunately most travelers, perhaps it might be good since it keeps them away from small towns, believe that the big cities offer “culture”–such as operas and other high-brow hubristic contrivances. You see one opera, you’ve seen them all, that is a stage play before an audience of fuddy-duds trying to impress each other, attepting to feign reveling in such great oration from an opera singer who’s language they cannot understand. It’s the same everywhere, in all countries. The mores of each country manifest in my view more prominently in ordinary people who have the time to be ordinary. I don’t often find both in the bustle of the city.

                1. Darren – Wagner had Bayreuth designed to enhance his operas. The orchestra is under the stage, the stage machinery is incredible and it world-famous for its Wagner productions. BBC did the Ring Cycle from there and it was outstanding.

                  Opera was an attempt to recreate Greek theatre and it got out of hand. 😉 When I graduated from grade school my mother bought me a small record player and a Ricky Nelson 45 rpm. I went out and bought the 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. That was not easy in a city of under 10,000.

                    1. Squeeky – Peggy Fleming is the famous ice skater. This is an opera by Dvorak with libretto (words) by Kvapil. It is about a water sprite.

                  1. Paul C……LOL Love your recording selections. Impressive for a little boy!
                    Here’s the link to the Margravial Opera House, where we played in Bayreuth.
                    I think we were next door to the “new” one. Anyway, it was an unbelievable space especially for Texas kids. GOLL-LEEE.. I’m sure our mouths were agape like the Clampetts half the time! We had a soprano, trained in opera, traveling with us. Don’t leave home without one 🙂
                    https://www.schloesser.bayern.de/deutsch/schloss/objekte/bay_oper.htm

                    1. Cindy Bragg – that is a gorgeous opera house. How were the acoustics? What program did you play while you were there? Did you get to visit Bayreuth and see anything there?

              1. Paul C…….I think I told you I played with a symphony at the Wag.festival in Bayreuth when I was 18…..in the old opera house( Margrave..17th c?)..thrilling. Wagner’s granddaughter was our hostess. She was known as the white sheep of the family because she was the only one who hated Hitler. Sigfried was her dad. Your link brought back those memories!
                Thank you……..🎶

                1. Cindy Bragg – I an jealous you got to play there. I would so love to see the Ring Cycle there. It is on my never-ending bucket list. 😉

                  1. Paul C. To answer your questions above….I think the acoustics were good, but we were so excited.. The soprano did Voi Che Sapete from Figaro, and one other one.. I can’t find our album so can’t remember all we played..except our big finale was Overture to die Meistersinger. On the last climatic build up near the end , we violins played that climatic climb all “down bow” for effect…He wrote it that way…but it’s so cool to play.The place was packed and they cheered, stomped their feet and threw red roses onto the stage…..like in the movies!!
                    Friedelin, Wagner’s grand d., took us to his home (she was born there) saw his grave, buried near his dog.
                    The really incredible thing was that the year was 1965, and our conductor, and manager and half of our chaperones were Jewish…..and there we were in a town that was a Nazi “shrine”. Our dear conductor and the other Jews never said a negative word! They were so professional!

                  2. P.S. we had just recorded the Mendelssohn violin concerto in Paris (for Radio Free Europe) and we may have included that in the Bayreuth program. It is such a gorgeous piece..do you have it?

                    1. Cindy Bragg – I don’t have any of my vinyl collection anymore, I might have it, but I do have access to a classical music station 24/7. So, they will play it at some point.

  5. It all depends on the breed of the dog.
    If a pit bull is involved, in my opinion, it’s attempted murder. The dog is trying to kill you.
    A labrador retreiver is such a klutz, and lives for fun! You can bet if there’s a lab involved, it’s accidental…..but no matter how it turns out, you’ll be laughing.
    A border collie, supposedly the dog with highest IQ, probably spent weeks planning the entire event.

    1. Cindy Bragg – for the pit bulls I think you could use an insanity defense. They try to kill everybody. Agree on the labs and for the border collies it would be premeditated attempted murder and he is really annoyed it didn’t work. 😉

  6. Okay, so he has an unauthorized driver running him over and he wants damages from himself? Just trying to get the basis of the case here.

    1. I’d personally go for the product liability—design defect, not looking into Alabama law here.

      Off the top of my head, just claim the way it’s designed is unreasonable dangerous.

      If my dog could turn it on and run me over so easily, then so could another person or child by accidentally bumping the handle bars the wrong way. Whoops! And then pancake the person. Didn’t mean to do that!

      1. Wally World – I could go with the design defect. If a dog can run me over, anybody can run me over. Have to recall ALL those vehicles. 😉

  7. And well, there was that DWI & Coke charges when he was out with Joe & Hunter Biden & cops found the dead hooker in the trunk. There’s that.

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